Historically, Lexus isn’t a brand known for great sports coupes or even sporty cars. That’s changing, with the product team injecting new life to the brand with youthful designs and a more focused approach to its sporty offshoots. The IS keeps getting better, and now that they’ve had a few years with the LFA on the market I really think they are incorporating those lessons into the rest of their lineup. To me the RC-F is a great marriage between the success of the IS and knowledge gained with the LFA. It’s a concept that would seem to work and – SPOILER ALERT – for me really works; the Lexus RC-F is a great car. With that out of the way, what does this car really offer – and where does it fit?
The car definitely looks the part. The RC-F has a wide body-kit with a heat-dissipating hood and functional heat-dissipating fenders. Up front you get a massive spindle grille, fully in line with Lexus’ ongoing design language. And much like the IS sedan, you get Nike’s swoosh with independent daytime running lights and triple-beam LED headlamps. On the sides are functional air intakes for the brakes and at the very outside of the bumper you have a special intake to keep the oil cooler, well, cool, which works to maximize performance over a longer period of time. If you opt for the performance package (and why not?) you get a bare carbon fiber roof and a bare carbon fiber active spoiler. The active spoiler comes on all RC-Fs and activates at 50-mph, presumably giving you more downforce as you race (closed course – professional driver) down the road. You can also select ‘always on’ if you’re into that sort of thing. Out back, the rear bumper cover is also wider than the standard RC and you get the quad stacked exhaust nicely tucked in.
The wheels on our RC-F are the 19” BBS wheels, and behind them are 14.9-inch, six-piston Brembo brakes. These wheels look great and the massive rear tires (275 / 35R19), in conjunction with the suspension and nanny tech, make this vehicle nearly impossible to break loose.
The seats of the RC-F are some of the most comfortable bucket seats we’ve been in. They hug your body without poking or squeezing you too tight, unlike some RECARO seats we’ve experienced lately. The seats look like leather, but are actually a material called Nuluxe; the rest of the trim inside the car is the genuine article. The headrests are tilted back so it’s easy to sit in the seat while wearing a racing helmet, and you get port holes for a harness seatbelt, although I’m not sure if they are more for looks or can actually be functional.
And there’s more that’s great about the interior beyond the seats. The steering wheel, for example, is thicker than the one in the base RC or the RC F-Sport. It’s quite comfortable in the hands and has easily accessible buttons with paddle shifters in the back. Throughout the rest of the cabin you get colored stitching with black leather and carbon fiber accents, all of which work (successfully) to resemble the interior of the LFA, Lexus’ supercar.
My one and only true gripe inside? I don’t like the way the driver interfaces (or, more correctly, doesn’t interface) with the infotainment system. Lexus has gone through a few changes lately with this – their latest version has a touch pad, similar to what you’d find on a laptop. This seems simple and intuitive but it was actually difficult to use while driving. While parked it was fine, and we’ve driven several new Lexus models with this so I’ve had a lot of exposure to it. And even with that experience and exposure it still seemed difficult to use while also trying to navigate the vehicle down the road – you know, actually drive!
Under the hood is a 5.0-liter V8 engine pushing 467-horsepower and 380-lbs.-ft. of torque. That beefy engine is matched with an 8-speed sport direct shift transmission. This powertrain was specifically engineered to deliver seemingly endless and immediate power and that’s a bullet point (PowerPoint?) I think they hit. Pushing the gas pedal with any significant pressure results in a firestorm of power sent to the rear-wheels. And you’ll remember the rear wheels, suspension, and computerized controls don’t let these wheels slip, so you get pushed back into your Lexus-engineered seat as the car is propelled forward.
It’s not one of the most fuel efficient vehicles but, with the 8-speed transmission, it manages a decent 25-mpg highway and 16-mpg city rating. The more important stats for a RC-F driver though are 4.4 and 168, representing its 0-60 time and top speed, respectively.
There are multiple driving modes (including a few hidden ones) that actually do change the way the car behaves. There are 4-modes available by a turn knob on the center console. You get a Normal mode, which is the car’s default mode; Eco for saving a little on the fuel gauge; Sport S, which enhances throttle response and switches your gauge cluster to white and red; and the fourth, Sport S+, which takes the Sport mode and adds computer control actuators which increase the adaptive variable suspension and reduce electric power steering assist for better driver feedback. You can then access the 5th mode by pushing the traction control button; this disables pretty much all of the computers helping you, except one which will help you if you end up completely sideways and out of control. This mode is indicated on the dash by adding the text “expert” next to your tach. The final mode, which we’ll call OMG, is engaged by holding the traction control button for more than 3-seconds and completely disabling the computers all together.
After a week of driving, along with some time at an event where we really go to push it, we could tell this car was built by engineers and designers that really wanted to build this car, making it for them as much as for everyone else. This view is validated when you read the comments from the car’s chief engineer, Yukihiko Yaguchi. Yaguchi-san said he doesn’t create cars unless it’s something he wants to build and wants to drive.
Driving Lexus’ RC-F is great, and it does everything you want your expensive luxury coupe to do. If asked to categorize it, I would call it somewhere between a true GT and a Japanese muscle car. Although this car handles itself quite well on the track, I think if you’re buying this to be a sports car or a track car you’re probably going to be disappointed. For the money you can find better track cars, but with luxury competitors (Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz) steering away from big V8s in favor of turbo 6-cylinder engines, there’s not much else currently available which will equip you with this size, power and luxury. And few other cars deliver raucous performance with refinement in quite the same way as Lexus delivers them.
That brings us to something we haven’t mentioned, but could definitely be a deciding factor: How much? The base RC-F starts at $62,400 and you get a lot with this package. That’s a pretty good value proposition, and could make people think twice about being the 20th person in their neighborhood to buy a Corvette or Porsche. Our tester was spec’d out with special wheels, seats, the Navigation/Mark Levinson package, special Ultrasonic Blue Mica paint, a $4,400 Premium package, and moonroof; before you know it that reasonable sticker price just shot up to $74,560. If checking all the boxes you can easily come close to $80k. And for me, there are a lot of vehicles out there for that kind of money. Would you rather have a slightly used GT-R, or a Lexus RC-F? BMW’s M6 or the RC-F?
You pay your money and you take your choice, but when comparing it to the more exotic GT-R or more aspirational M6 the Lexus becomes marginalized…until you begin to consider the ownership experience after the warranty. Once you’re writing your own checks for service, the quality and reliability of a Lexus is a recipe for long-term satisfaction, while those on a German service drive have typically needed deeper pockets…or a trust fund. For me, when checking all the boxes the RC-F remains a great car – I just don’t know if it’s still worth it.